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Jim Utter’s Inside Motorsports: Will ‘Gen 6’ car be a winner at Vegas?

- My two cents
Wednesday, Mar. 06, 2013
Next Race Kobalt Tools 400 Where: Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas. When: 3 p.m. Sunday TV: Fox Radio: Performance Racing Network Last year’s winner: Tony Stewart

Many NASCAR fans have had this Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Las Vegas circled on their calendars.

I suspect NASCAR officials have, too, as well as the drivers.

Sunday’s Kobalt Tools 400 has been billed as the first big test of NASCAR’s new model Cup car (NASCAR calls it the Gen 6), which feature much greater manufacturer identity and have been highly touted as a “fix it” to the sub-par racing some fans have expressed displeasure with on 1.5-mile tracks like Las Vegas.

Here’s a sampling of some recent headlines – just a taste of what the media has come to expect.

“Gen-6 race car giving NASCAR a buzz”

“New Gen 6 vehicles expected to appease fans, drivers”

“Gen-6 generates optimism”

“Gen 6 will change racing – for all”

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with those headlines. They are just a taste of the stories which have dominated the preseason about the new Cup cars.

Two races into the season, however, and the reviews on the cars’ competitive performance have been mixed at best.

That leads into the next big question which might face NASCAR by the end of the weekend: What if Sunday’s race isn’t dramatically different than any other recent race at Las Vegas?

What if the race is a snoozer?

Is NASCAR prepared for the media blowback which likely would accompany such a scenario?

The media never seem to reject a chance to jump on a bandwagon – and there’s no question virtually everyone – fans and media alike – have latched their 2013 expectations on this new car’s looks and performance.

The media, however, also have a very predictable habit of ditching the bandwagon as soon as it appears a wheel is coming off.

Personally, I have been hesitant to make any big assumptions about the new car’s competitiveness, particularly because it has seen very little testing in race conditions.

Don’t get me wrong – the cars certainly are a winner as far as looks, to which I’m sure the manufacturers will attest.

As to what it does on the track Sunday? I don’t know what to expect.

I just wonder how many others feel the same way.

Hopefully, all goes according to plan – that certainly would be a boon for NASCAR.

Should the opposite happen, however, I wonder if we are ready for the backlash.

Notes

Sorenson to sub for Annett: Reed Sorenson will fill in for Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett, who was injured in a crash at Daytona International Speedway and had to have surgery for a fractured and dislocated sternum.

Sorenson will race the No. 43 Ford beginning this week at Las Vegas and remain the driver until Annett is cleared to race again by NASCAR. Sorenson made his debut in the series during 2004 and has four wins, 38 top-five and 85 top-10 finishes in 173 starts.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the team and Michael,” said Sorenson. “I have been to the hospital to see him, and he will be fine, but it’s going to take some time to heal. As a friend for a long time, my initial reaction was concern. I’m glad that he’s recovering now.”

Hornaday leads West Coast class: Four-time Truck series champion Ron Hornaday leads the 2013 class in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.

In addition to Hornaday, other inductees include Chad Little, the 1987 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion and current Truck series director; Derrike Cope, the 1990 Daytona 500 winner; Randy Lynch, K&N Pro Series championship car owner; and Buddy Jobe, former owner/developer of Phoenix International Raceway.

Induction ceremonies will take place June 20 in Napa, Calif.

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